By Natasha Cohen

My name is Natasha Cohen and I’m a copywriter at Ocado, the online supermarket. I undertook two years of Chinese Mandarin classes at City, University of London and am currently continuing with a bespoke course.

I decided to take a course in Mandarin because I’m half Chinese but never learned the language. I realised that I wanted to be closer to my culture and heritage beyond family and food (which are brilliant in their own rights, of course).

The City short course ticked all the boxes for me: the institution has a good reputation, it was easy for me to get to, the course content was appealing and the price was right.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the course when I first started, other than learning words and grammar. What I’ve come away with is a foundation of knowledge about the essential structure of the language, which means that I can continue to learn in my own time.

I’ve also met some great people on the course and will definitely stay in contact with them. I’m quite a shy person but the environment at City is very supportive, and once you realise how much your language skills are improving, it’s a real confidence boost. Since starting this course I’ve been pushing myself to try new things and not be afraid of making mistakes.

There have been a few times when I’ve been able to surprise myself and use Mandarin ‘in the wild’. Not so long ago I visited a Chinese restaurant in Brussels where the staff only spoke French and Mandarin. At school I took GCSE French and am still okay at basic conversation, but nothing in my vocabulary covers Chinese food. After I asked the waiter ‘Do you speak English?’ in Chinese and he responded with mild panic, I was able to muddle through in Mandarin. I was nervous but I got by and it was a great moment. The waiter was relieved, too.

My current plan is simply to continue to study Chinese! I’ve been told that it takes five hours of study a day for 88 weeks to become fluent in Mandarin. With a full-time job and other weekly activities and distractions, it’s going to be a long journey for me – but I’m definitely in it for the long haul.

City offers short language courses at all levels in everything from Chinese to Arabic, Russian, French and Spanish. To find out more visit our language short course page. Or follow our twitter updates on @cityshortcourses.